Q: have just lost two month-old plants due to roly-polies eating up the roots. What should I use to get rid of them. I don't want them to get the other plants, but I don't want to poison the plants so they will hurt the bees,butterflies, and hummingbirds. Miffy Woods

A:Pillbugs, often called "roly-polies," are small crustaceans related to crabs and lobsters that live in the garden. They get their name from rolling up into a ball when threatened. They generally feed on decaying organic matter and don't harm plants. However, when populations explode, they will feed on roots. They need a constant supply of moisture; if they dry out, they die. That's why you often find them hiding under damp rocks and bricks.

An easy way to control their numbers is to eliminate their hiding places by removing rocks, bricks, brush, sticks, and heavy layers of mulch. When that isn't enough, stronger measures are called for. I've found that chemical slug baits really do a number on pillbugs. But slug baits are risky to use around fish ponds and pets.

Diatomaceous earth, which consists of the tiny exoskeletons of microscopic sea creatures called diatoms, is an effective natural control. You can buy bags of this stuff at many garden and home centers under the brand name of "Concern." You can also buy it combined with a natural, wide spectrum, plant-based insecticide in a product called Diatect V. Used on the soil, it won't harm birds, bees, or butterflies. It's available online at www.planetnatural.com. Tell those crummy pillbugs it's time to rock and roll! Grumpy

Q:Thank you so very much for the info. I found the diatomaceous earth today at Lowe's and have sprinkled it on the ground around the plants. They looked up at me and smiled. A white butterfly landed on a flower as if to say, see, it won't hurt me. Miffy Woods

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